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Scrap the Ag Visa

February 1, 2022 9:16 am

Email David Littleproud: Axe the Ag Visa

Report after report has shown systemic exploitation and abuse of migrant workers on Australian farms. This is not just a few bad apples – the industry is rotten to the core.Yet Agriculture Minister David Littleproud is attempting to funnel migrant workers onto Australian farms under the new ‘Ag Visa’.David Littleproud insists a small cohort of growers aren’t playing by the rules, and most farmers pay and treat their workers fairly.It’s simply not true.David Littleproud refuses to meet with the AWU to discuss our concerns, or address the systemic exploitation of migrant workers.We need to stand up for workers and say no to this abuse. Join our call, email David Littleproud directly and tell him to scrap the Ag Visa.

The truth about our rotten Horticultural Industry

David Littleproud says it’s a small cohort of ‘bad apples’ giving the industry a poor reputation.

But countless reports have shown the opposite; the exploitation and abuse of workers has become standard business practice on the majority of Australian farms.

Here are some reports, including the Government’s own investigations, that detail the systemic abuse of migrant workers.

2021

The National Agricultural Workforce Strategy, published by the Morrison Government, found  “dependence on an overseas seasonal and transient workforce is one of the biggest issues faced by a number of developed countries”, and that “using low-cost labour is… a highly risky option.”

The McKell Institute report Blue Harvest, found some blueberry pickers were paid as little as $4 a bucket to pick low-quality fruit, while others earned just $3 an hour. The Institute found that workers are set up to be exploited, that wage theft is a business model in the horticulture sector, and that workers are coerced into a culture of silence

A UnionsNSW Report titled “Wage Theft: the Shadow market” concluded that 96% of the piece rates advertised would not allow a worker to earn the national minimum wage, and 65% of the ads for strawberry picking and 22% for grape picking would allow workers to earn less than $2 an hour.

2019

The Morrison Government’s Migrant Workers’ Taskforce found “unscrupulous employers … blatantly breach the law” and “it is clear that a significant proportion of temporary visa holders in Australia are being exploited.”

A report commissioned by growers’ organisations Vegetables WA and the West Australian Strawberries Association  identified “widespread” exploitation of migrant workers, and that workers on piece rates generally earn less than $15 an hour (with many earning much less).

2018

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s Harvest Trail Inquiry reported a “culture of non-compliance,” with more than half of investigated employers failing to follow workplace laws.

2017

The Temporary Migrant Work Survey of 4,322 migrant workers found 1 in 7 workers earned $5 per hour or less, and 1 in 3 earned $10 or less.

Parliament’s inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act noted “unscrupulous labour hire companies [contribute] to the exploitation of migrant workers,” and the Committee expressed concern at the high number of case studies detailing exploitation and abuse.

An in-depth investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald said “There is enough evidence to say that [exploitation] is systemic” and “Significant numbers [of migrant workers] are really exploited.”

A Senate Committee Report titled “A National Disgrace” said “the scale of abuse is extraordinary”, and identified “blatant and pervasive abuse of the WHM visa program” by labour hire companies supplying workers to the horticulture sector.

Research on temporary migrant workers from Elsa Underhill at Deakin University stated that “employers take advantage of these variations in vulnerability to find the weakest workers and the most exploitative contracting arrangements and payment systems” and “Without enforceable minimum standards of employment, other employers are then forced to follow suit, producing a downward spiral of wages and employment conditions.”

2010

A Government report into the 2010 Review of the Migration Amendment (Employer Sanctions) Act 2007 identified “deliberate and systematic use of [migrant] workers in significant numbers,” and undocumented workers in particular “underpaid, misled about what they are doing, undernourished, beaten and threatened.”

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